Orla McGinnity

         My whites flop through the airy drum, foaming like waves from detergent and an excess of space.

         Last week my manager’s manager, a woman who calls you ‘my love’ before inviting you to a dressing down, took each of us aside to talk about our uniforms.

         ‘Neither of your shirts are white’, she told Vanessa and I. ‘I know it’s tough, the food hall’s uniforms are black and that’s very easy — it’s tough for you guys.’

         She foundered in the authority of her position, explaining that we might use our tips to buy whiter shirts. Attempting to rustle up complicity, and even gratitude, she pawed at the awkwardness of our blank stares, asking ‘Is this helpful?’.

         I peer at the see-through screen and think about kneading dough, lifting and dropping its pale, flabby flesh, like the wind animating an errant crisp packet.

         A black sock nudges its way into view. I am torn between laughing out loud and kicking the machine. I stare at the whirling cotton, searching for nascent stains. I can see smudges, but they may be fluff. I wonder about my unconscious, but I’m fairly certain I had no notion of the sock.

         Switching off the machine and trying to open the locked door, I recall how I had immediately texted a humorous account of the workplace reprimand and its uncomfortable tone to a friend of mine, who met it with an occupied blank.

         When we sleep together, if I ask them to pull my hair, they close their eyes in relieved agony, as if I’ve disclosed the date and circumstances of their death.

         The door won’t open, so I have to start the cycle all over again. In the end they come out white, the sock dropping quietly out of the bundle with a guilty look. After drying them, I press and feel at each garment to make sure they are fully done, like airport security or someone reuniting with a long lost face.